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The Emperor of Ocean Park

3.60  ·  Rating details ·  6,168 ratings  ·  767 reviews
Intricate, superbly written, often scathingly funny - a brilliantly crafted tapestry of ambition, family secrets, murder, integrity tested, and justice has gone terribly wrong.

An extraordinary fiction debut: a large, stirring novel of suspense that is, at the same time, a work of brilliantly astute social observation. The Emperor of Ocean Park is set in two privileged worl
Paperback, 672 pages
Published May 27th 2003 by Vintage (first published 2002)
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Average rating 3.60  · 
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 ·  6,168 ratings  ·  767 reviews

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Felice Laverne
**As a note, this novel is listed in my GR "bio" as one of my favorite reads of all time! I wrote this review a few years ago, but I still have this book on my living room shelf. I HIGHLY RECOMMEND it (!!) if you love thrillers, intelligent mysteries with puzzles, a level of erudite language and complex concepts, and reading accurate accounts of the small minority of minorities known as the upper echelon of black society (or, as W.E.B. DuBois called it, the Talented Tenth).**

The Emperor of O
Feb 19, 2008 rated it liked it
The fact that this book explores university politics featuring east coast black upper-middle class characters made it stand out from the pack, but once you get over this facet (which I did pretty quickly), what you're left with is a well written and fairly intriguing mystery, more memorable than some I've read, less so than others. I suppose a book like this one is an antidote to the urban/hip hop/gangsta/etc. genre of "literature", not so much because it features black characters who are articu ...more
Nov 27, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Even though it took me FOREVER to finish, I enjoyed this book more than I thought I would. Had it been 100-200 pages shorter and the editing a bit tighter, I would have given it a five star rating.

The characters are what drew me into the book and kept me there. While I've certainly seen and known educated and upper middle class African Americans like Talcott aka Misha (a law professor)and his wife Kimmer (a lawyer) in real life, I've rarely encountered them in the world of fiction and never with
Apr 23, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Johnny
Shelves: completed
This was one of the moodiest books I have ever read. A well-to-do African American family come together for the funeral of the family patriarch, a judge who once was in the running for a Supreme Court seat, but because of his connection with "Uncle Jack," a shadowy underworld figure, removed himself from consideration in disgrace.

This author is one of the best "mood-setters" I have ever read. He is able to describe alternately the joy of raising a child and the delight of discovering life throu
Jan 07, 2008 rated it it was amazing
For almost a week Bob and I didn't talk to each other much. That's because he had his nose in this 800+ page book for the first part of the week, and I had mine in it for the second part. Unlike legal thrillers penned by other legally trained writers (e.g. Grisham, Turow, and Baldacci), this book is not one dimensional. It is complex, and the language is rich. It is a window into the world of affluent/well-educated members of the "darker nation" and the book unfolds like layers being peeled away ...more
Apr 27, 2008 rated it really liked it
Carter has an extraordinary command of the English language. One of the most compelling books I've read, primarily for the vocabulary gymnastics. I was sent to my dictionary more than once. However, the plot line of this mystery is secondary to the breadth of Carter's knowledge of human nature. I also take exception to so many evidentiary holes in the mystery that are explained later -- getting the answer before we even know the reason for the question.
Author Carter's sometimes unreliable fir
Lauren Cecile
Oct 18, 2015 rated it really liked it
I love big books and big ideas. I enjoyed reading this but was a little disappointed that the privileged African-Americans were just a description of the characters because their class and race were, for the most part, inconsequential to the story. They could have been Irish, French, middle class, etc. Good story, with numerous threads that were sometimes difficult to follow, but I just expected more about this particular demographic. Also well-written.
Mar 24, 2009 rated it liked it
What's funny is that the very reason I loved this book so much at first is the reason I sort of was bored at the end -- the mystery is almost secondary to the the characters and relationships in the book. A number of the reviews have said the book was slow, but for the first 3/4 of the book, that didn't bother me at all. I actually liked how, instead of a real "who done it" mystery, Carter just really set up a great cast of characters, and only slowly set out even hints that there was a murder. ...more
This truly is well done. I like Mr Carter's tone and the relaxed and personable manner in which his story unfolds. His use of language is lyrically elevated, slightly pretentious but not unapproachable or condescending. He offers multiple views on society, racism, poverty, etc that we are not familiar with in relation to Black American literary characters and he handles this balance well. He needs a better editor but at the same time this is incredible for a first novel.
I'll read his other book
This was a good story but could have been a lot shorter...too descriptive throughout. I found myself thinking, "Move on! I got it.". But, the story is worth the read. ...more
Martin Clark
Nov 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Great book--intricate, well written and entertaining.
Joan Early
Sep 28, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Reading The Emperor of Ocean Park reminded me of the classics that took forever to finish. Stephen L. Carter is a great storyteller. I understand our fascination with brevity and applaud the concept, though I often want more. This novel delivers. A family in turmoil with race as a factor, not a focus, is reading I enjoy. The suspense builds slowly, but the characters are interesting enough to hold my interest. Keep writing fiction, Mr. Carter.
Michael David Cobb
Jan 15, 2009 rated it it was ok
Shelves: the-black-shelf
The Emperor of Ocean Park by Stephen L. Carter. is a quite compelling if not evenly flowing or artistic read. It's an ambitious book that works on many different levels. As a first time novelist, Carter should have stuck to one or two, but in the end you are glad that he didn't.[return][return]As a thriller, it bites you slo-o-o-wly. I get the feeling that if Carter weren't so interested in putting us in his protagonist's stubborn and provincial shoes, we might figure out exactly what is going t ...more
Patricia Williams
Apr 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
My mystery book club read this many years ago. Excellent read.
Todd Huish
May 27, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: grisham fans, lovers of mystery/thrillers
Recommended to Todd by: NPR
I don't know what it is about lawyers writing complicated thrillers but, evidently, they're pretty good at it. I think Grisham is the one everyone knows but after reading "The Emporer of Ocean Park" I say there's a new gun in town and his name is Stephen L. Carter.

I heard about this book on NPR during its media blitz and his interview was sufficiently interesting enough to get me to try it out. A lot of books I get from NPR aren't always the most riveting or nearly as interesting as they first
Mar 11, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Nancy by: Lisa
Shelves: mystery
This is the best mystery I have read in a long, long time and wonder where I was when it first came out.
Stephen Carter writes extremely well and creates fleshy characters with class and depth. His plot is rich with revelations and twists and the pace is good. It is also a thoughtful, sensitive novel which allows its major players to interact in intelligent ways.
Talcott Garland is a law professor at an unnamed Ivy League law school and is married to Kimberly, a lawyer in the running for a posi
The Emperor of Ocean Park, which dedicates quite a number of pages to the game of chess its narrator loves, is itself a sort of chess match. Author Carter runs multiple sophisticated plots concurrently through the story, making Emperor a novel of academia, of racial and professional politics (here often identically aimed), a straight-up legal thriller, and a story of an already disintegrating family coping with the loss of its domineering patriarch – all of which somehow meld into a coherent and ...more
Mar 26, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: suspense-mystery
A father dies and his son must figure out what secrets he has left behind. Others also want to know what the "arrangements" are and so begins the book. I tend to not read a lot of suspense books but I enjoyed this one. There are times where the side stories take a little too much ink but I feel that many of the side stories added to the depth of the story so you never knew which people or bits of information were important to the main plot and which supported the subplots. I also liked how the m ...more
Jason Haynes
Sep 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
This was a good, fun read. Carter enjoys playing the mystery writer and he is at his best in this novel. None of his subsequent works quite reach the craft practiced here. For that and his description of the elites of Black America, this novel is a terrific read.
Mar 19, 2008 rated it did not like it
Hated it..Soap opera from a conservative Yale professor..please..needs to stick to his day job.
Bryan R.
This is one of the best books I ever read. It is part thriller, part peak into black Martha's Vineyard, part academia. So many interesting twists and characters. ...more
Jul 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction-thriller

Stephen Carter, is a unique talent: a prize-winning writer of both fiction and non-fiction, he is also a law professor at Yale University. The Emperor of Ocean Park derives its title from the sobriquet given by a magazine to Judge Oliver Garland, a key but short-lived character. This is an astounding novel that feels like non-fiction in many ways, a book filled with ideas and lots of moving parts.

For those who like crime thrillers, it's a treat; chess fans will be interested because chess plays
This book was fantastic, and I'm sorry it took me so long to get to it. Although sixteen years later is better than never, I wish that I had grabbed this book when everyone else (in the world) did - when it was published. I remember 2002. This book stayed on the bestseller lists for several weeks. Stephen Carter's name was on everyone's lips - except mine. Why the disinterest? What took me so long? The usual reason: I had my nose stuck in an old, dusty, out-of-print novel (the kind I prefer), so ...more
Dec 01, 2008 rated it it was ok
Carter is a good writer in the sense that he puts words and sentences together in a way that is mostly enjoyable to read (although he tends to over-use certain pat phrases -- his use of "darker nation" and "paler nation" was ok once or twice but tiresome after a while.) But at the end of the day, the plot, although complex and fairly engaging while you are reading it, has MAJOR holes in it. The most glaring hole is that if you actually ponder the motive of the person who turns out to have done i ...more
I want y'all to know that I really tried with this one, for a long while! This year was supposed to be the year I really moved into several mysteries and thrillers, and so I was excited to try this book that'd been personally suggested to me through my library's recommendation program. It seemed like a group of people I'd be interested in mocking--I mean reading--about, and so I was excited to dive in.

BUT: The wry, detached narrative style just does not work for me. I felt this way in The Long F
Apr 03, 2018 rated it liked it
I enjoyed this book but it has some serious flaws. It took way too long for me to feel any suspense and I don't like the protagonist. He's a shell of man in the shadow of every single person around him. His dead dad. His older brother. His unfaithful wife.
Also there are way too many characters who, in my opinion, are all alike. Wealthy. Highly educated lawyers.
There are a few good laughs though.
Di Richardson
Jun 21, 2020 rated it really liked it
I read a review calling this book intricate, and I think that’s a very good word to describe it. It starts with the death of Oliver Garland who is a prominent African-American judge, and was once a nominee for the Supreme Court. That nomination was tanked, and the judge publicly humiliated, because of a relationship he had with a prominent crime figure. After the judges death, his son Talcott starts receiving cryptic messages about some big secret that the judge had, and Tal has to unravel those ...more
Oct 02, 2020 rated it did not like it
Do. Not. Read. This.
Jul 28, 2007 rated it really liked it
OK, so I finally finished the book and I really liked it! In addition to the use of the terms "darker nation" and "paler nation", which I thought was a simple but wonderful way to distinguish the races (I tire of having to say black and white), the writing was really quite good. This was not a short novel, so Carter had enough pages to develop the characters and I'm glad that he did. I came to understand, though not always like, the whole Garland clan and their actions, even little Bentley. Thos ...more
Nov 21, 2008 rated it liked it
This was entertaining. Talcott defintely became a character for whom one can sympathize, from his failing marriage with Kimmer, to his heart rending tenderness toward his son, to his anguish over the mysterious and dangerous legacy his father has haunted him. I found the chess descriptions and the circle of law a bit dry. I do have a rudimentary knowledge of chess - but the description of "double excelsior" left me scratching my head. And being a former litigation attorney and UGH! law student, ...more
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Stephen L. Carter is the William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Law at Yale where he has taught since 1982. He has published seven critically acclaimed nonfiction books on topics ranging from affirmative action to religion and politics. His first novel, The Emperor of Ocean Park (2002), was an immediate national best seller. His latest novel is New England White (Knopf, 2007). A recipient of the NAA ...more

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